Indy 500 – Special Awards
Over the years, numerous special awards have been presented to drivers and participants at the Indianapolis 500. The following is a list of some of the notable “special awards” (past & present) and the recipients throughout Indy history.
Scott Brayton Driver’s Trophy
Driver Scott Brayton arrived at Indy and first qualified in 1981. He won the pole position two times (1995 & 1996) and also set a 1-lap qualifying track record in 1985 (started 2nd). He had a best finish of 6th in both 1989 and 1993. During Time Trials in 1996, Brayton dramatically withdrew his already-qualified car and made a last-ditch effort in a back-up car for the pole position. Brayton won the pole, his second-consecutive Indy 500 pole. Six days later, Brayton was testing a Menard team back-up car. His car suffered a rapidly-deflated right rear tire, and crashed hard in turn two. Tragically, Brayton was killed of a basal skull fracture at the age of 37.
Following his tragic death, an award was created in Brayton’s memory. Beginning in 1997, the Scott Brayton Driver’s Trophy was introduced, and presented to the driver who ‘best exemplifies the attitude, spirit, and competitive drive of Scott Brayton’. The prize was $25,000 and a trophy, and could actually be given to a driver who missed the race. Royal Purple Motor Oil was the original sponsor. In the first three years, it was presented prior to the race during the Public Drivers Meeting, handed out by Scott’s father Lee Brayton. Starting in 2000, it was presented after the race at the Victory Banquet. A driver could win the award only one time in his/her career.
Seven former or eventual Indy 500 winners won the Scott Brayton Award. But only one driver (Sam Hornish Jr.) won the award in the same year he won the race.
- 1997 — John Paul Jr.
- 1998 — Roberto Guerrero
- 1999 — Eliseo Salazar
- 2000 — Eddie Cheever
- 2001 — Davey Hamilton
- 2002 — Arie Luyendyk
- 2003 — Buddy Lazier
- 2004 — Helio Castroneves
- 2005 — Kenny Bräck
- 2006 — Sam Hornish Jr.
- 2007 — Tony Kanaan
- 2008 — Vitor Miera
- 2009 — Sarah Fisher
Several of the drivers won the award based on their determination and perseverance following injury. John Paul Jr., Eliseo Salazar, Davey Hamilton, and Kenny Bräck were all drivers who suffered major injuries in racing crashes, but recuperated and returned to the cockpit. After 2009, the award was quietly retired.
Jim Clark Award
In May 1969, the Britannia Club of Indianapolis created an award to honor the memory of the late Formula One World Champion and 1965 Indianapolis 500 winner Jim Clark. In April 1968, Clark of Scotland was killed in a crash at Hockenheim, Germany. The award was to be presented to the driver or contributor (current or former) “by virtue of his example on and off the Indianapolis 500 Speedway, and his contributions to competitive motor racing, has best exemplified the spirit shown in his lifetime by Jim Clark”. For over a decade, the Jim Clark Award was held in high prestige, and the list of recipients include numerous “500” winners and future racing hall of famers.
The award was usually presented during the week leading up to the race at an reception or dinner, usually in conjunction with the Indianapolis Press Club. The honoree received a scroll and a special gift – a leather purse with 33 Churchill Crowns (representing the 33 starters). In addition, the honorees were given tartan sport jackets to wear during the ceremonies. The previous year’s winner would be invited to serve as the chairman of the selection committee, and all former winners customarily attended the annual reception. Other voters on the committee included members of the media from local newspapers, radio and television stations. Among the master of ceremonies for the popular event over the years were Chuck Marlowe, Donald Davidson, and Tom Carnegie.
The Britannia Club disbanded in 1976. Afterwards, the award was taken over by a standing committee, sponsored by Kroger. The ceremony moved to the Indianapolis Athletic Club, and lasted for several more years, often attended by celebrities and dignitaries. Previous winners of the award were added to the voting panel. The permanent perpetual trophy was housed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, and winners were presented with a small replica of the trophy as a keepsake.
- 1969 — Johnny Rutherford
- 1970 — Mario Andretti
- 1971 — Dan Gurney
- 1972 — Peter Revson
- 1973 — Bobby Allison
- 1974 — Peter DePaolo
- 1975 — Wally Dallenbach
- 1976 — Tom Sneva
- 1977 — Clarence Cagle
- 1978 — A. J. Foyt
- 1979 — not given
- 1980 — Rick Mears
- 1981 — Bill Alsup
- 1982 — Al Unser Sr.
- 1983 — Pancho Carter
- 1984 — Sam Hanks
- 1985 — Louis Meyer
- 1986 — Parnelli Jones
- 1987 — Gary Bettenhausen
- 1988 — Emerson Fittipaldi
- 1989 — Danny Sullivan
- 1990 — Bobby Rahal and Bob Collins
- 1991 — Jim Rathmann
- 1992 — Troy Ruttman
- 1993 — Tony George
In 1975, chief mechanic George Bignotti accepted the award on behalf of Wally Dallenbach. The 1978 award winner A.J. Foyt left the track abruptly after Carburetion Day practice to return to his shop in Houston to repair a blown engine. His sponsor and partner Jim Gilmore accepted the award in his absence. The ceremony went on hiatus in 1979, but came back in 1980. In 1981, actor and singer Phil Harris started a semi-tradition by leading the signing of “Back Home Again in Indiana” each year at the reception. In 1990, the award was expanded to two designees, with Bob Collins, sports editor of the The Indianapolis Star, named honorary award winner. After 24 years and 25 recipients, the award was retired after the 1993 race.
Jim Malloy Memorial Award
Named in memory of driver Jim Malloy, who was fatally injured in a practice crash in 1972. Presented by Thermo King, it was a general sportsmanship award, typically handed out at the annual Public Drivers Meeting, and included a small cash prize ($500). The award was given for “perseverance, skill, determination, resourcefulness, and co-operation with the news media”. The winners’ names were affixed to a decorative plaque.
- 1973 — Lee Kunzmann
- 1974 — Johnny Rutherford
- 1975 — Dick Simon
- 1976 — A.J. Foyt
- 1977 — Tom Sneva
- 1978 — Sheldon Kinser
- 1979 — Danny Ongais
- 1980 — Mario Andretti
Tony Hulman Award
Sponsored by the National Association of Auto Racing Fan Clubs (NAARFC). For “unselfish devotion to the sport of auto racing”. A plaque is periodically on display at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Fame Museum. This award is not to be confused with another prize of the same name, the “Tony Hulman Award” handed out at the prestigious Amelia Island Concours.
- 1977 — George Carpenter
- 1978 — June Swango
- 1979 — Pat Vidan
- 1980 — Tom Bigelow
- 1981 — John Cooper
- 1982 — no award
- 1983 — Donald Davidson
- 1984 — Mary F. Hulman
- 1985 — Tom Binford
- 1986 — Tom Carnegie
- 1987 — Robert Rowe
- 1988 — no award
- 1989 — Joseph R. Cloutier
- 1990 — Derrick Walker
- 1991 — Jim Chapman
- 1992 — Tony Hulman George
- 1993 — Dr. Terry R. Trammell, M.D.
- 1994 — Mel Kenyon
- 1995 — Mario Andretti
- 1996 — Rita Crafton
- 1997 — Leo Mehl
- 1998 — Foar Score Club, Inc. (50th Anniversary, 1948-1998)
- 1999 — Mari Hulman George
- 2000 — Dr. Pat Sullivan
- 2001 — Vito LoPiccolo
- 2002 — Hoosier Auto Racing Fans (50th Anniversary, 1952-2002)
- 2002 — Central Auto Racing Boosters (50th Anniversary, 1952-2002)
- 2003 — Brian Barnhart
- 2004 — Bob Jenkins
- 2005 — Bill Stone
- 200? — A. Lee Holst
- 2008 — Dr. Henry Bock
- 2012 — Steve Sapp
- 2017 — A.J. Watson
11th Row Society
Since 1973, the Indianapolis Press Club has sponsored the Last Row Party to honor the drivers who qualify in the 11th and final row (starting positions 31st-32nd-33rd). The event serves as a fundraiser benefitting the Indianapolis Press Club Foundation, which provides scholarships, awards, and fellowships for journalism students at Indiana colleges and universities.
The event is held as a dinner reception, and is put in as a roast for the three drivers. They are inducted into the “11th Row Society” and are traditionally presented with checks of 31¢, 32¢, and 33¢, respectively. Each driver is given a commemorative blazer and sometimes other gifts, and endure some good-natured jokes in a fun and laid-back environment. A collectible T-shirt is created annually featuring a caricature of the three drivers.
Each year, a local member of the media serves as host and “roast-master” for the event. The three drivers who participate are usually (but not necessarily) the three slowest cars in the field. In some years, drivers/cars are moved to the back of the starting grid due to driver and/or chassis switches. In some years these substitute drivers were counted as honorees, but in other years only the three drivers who “earned” their spot in the 11th row are recognized. The party is held on a weeknight during the week leading up to the race.
The late Robin Miller, former sportswriter and columnist for The Indianapolis Star, was the Master of Ceremonies and “roastmaster” for the Last Row Party nearly every year from 1978 to 1997. Miller was noted for his often brutal insult comedy and skewering of the drivers. Donald Davidson once described Miller as “lethal…but funny” and “no holds barred”, and complemented him on his material. Due to the entertaining nature of the event, the Last Row Party often attracted many celebrities and drivers, even those who were not part of the 11th row. The Last Row Party reception was a sharp contrast from the aforementioned reception for the “Jim Clark Award”, and the brief tenured “Front Row Party”, both of which were more formal and swanky.
|1973||Bob Collins||Bob Harkey||Sam Sessions||Jim McElreath|
|1974||Bob Collins||Bob Harkey||Jan Opperman (R)||Larry Cannon (R)|
|1975||Wayne Fuson||Mike Hiss||Eldon Rasmussen (R)||Tom Bigelow|
|1976||John Totten||David Hobbs||Tom Bigelow||Jan Opperman|
|1977||Bill Pittman||John Mahler||Eldon Rasmussen||Bubby Jones (R)|
|1978||Robin Miller||Gary Bettenhausen||Jerry Sneva||Mario Andretti (W)|
|1979||Don Hein||Spike Gehlhausen||John Mahler||Eldon Rasmussen|
|1980||Robin Miller||Tom Bigelow||Gary Bettenhausen||Tom Sneva|
|1981||Robin Miller||Jerry Karl||Mario Andretti-x (W)||Tim Richmond-x|
|1982||Robin Miller||Tom Bigelow||Pete Halsmer||Josele Garza-x|
|1983||Robin Miller||Steve Krisiloff||Chet Fillip||Dennis Firestone|
|1984||Robin Miller||Johnny Rutherford (W)||George Snider||Dennis Firestone|
|1985||Robin Miller||Derek Daly||Kevin Cogan-x||Rich Vogler (R)|
|1986||Robin Miller||Gary Bettenhausen||George Snider||Mario Andretti (W)|
|1987||Robin Miller||Ed Pimm-x||George Snider||Steve Chassey|
|1988||Robin Miller||Ludwig Heimrath Jr.||Rich Vogler||Howdy Holmes|
|1989||Robin Miller||Davy Jones||Pancho Carter||Rich Vogler|
|1990||Robin Miller||Billy Vukovich III||John Paul Jr.||Rocky Moran|
|1991||Robin Miller||Randy Lewis||Pancho Carter||Gordon Johncock (W)|
|1992||Robin Miller||Tom Sneva (W)||Gordon Johncock (W)||Ted Prappas (R)|
|1993||Robin Miller||Jim Crawford||Didier Theys||Eddie Cheever|
|1994||Robin Miller||John Paul Jr.||Mike Groff||Marco Greco (R)|
|1995||Robin Miller||Scott Sharp||Stefan Johansson||Davy Jones|
|1996||Robin Miller||Hideshi Matsuda||Joe Gosek (R)||Scott Harrington (R)|
|1997||Robin Miller||Alessandro Zampedri||Claude Bourbonnais (R)||Paul Durant|
|1998||Dave Wilson||Stephan Gregoire||Mike Groff||Billy Roe|
|1999||Jack Miller||Robbie Buhl||Raul Boesel|
Big John Gillis
|Billy Boat||Lyn St. James||Andy Hillenburg (R)|
|2001||Cory Witherill (R)||Billy Boat||Felipe Giaffone (R)|
|2002||Bob Jenkins||Greg Ray||George Mack (R)||Mark Dismore|
|2003||Bob Jenkins||Robby McGehee||Jimmy Kite||Airton Dare|
|2004||Bob Jenkins||P.J. Jones (R)||Marty Roth (R)||Robby McGehee|
|2005||Bob Jenkins||Jeff Ward||Jimmy Kite||Felipe Giaffone|
|2006||Bob Jenkins||Arie Luyendyk Jr. (R)||P.J. Jones||Thiago Medeiros (R)|
|2007||Bob Jenkins||Roberto Moreno||Richie Hearn||Phil Giebler (R)|
|2008||Bob Jenkins||A.J. Foyt IV||Buddy Lazier (W)||Marty Roth|
|2009||Bob Jenkins||Nelson Philippe (R)||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Alex Tagliani (R)|
|2010||Dave Wilson||Takuma Sato (R)||Tony Kanaan||Sebastian Saavedra (R)|
|2011||Alex Lloyd||Pippa Mann (R)||Ana Beatriz|
|2012||Laura Steele||Bryan Clauson (R)||Simona de Silvestro||Jean Alesi (R)|
|2013||(not held)||Conor Daly (R)||Buddy Lazier (W)||Katherine Legge|
|2014||Bob Jenkins||Sage Karam (R)||Sebastian Saavedra||Buddy Lazier (W)|
|Ryan Briscoe||Tristan Vautier||James Davison|
|Jack Hawksworth||Buddy Lazier (W)||Alex Tagliani|
|2017||Lindy Thackston||Sebastian Saavedra||Zach Veach (R)||James Davison|
|2018||Lindy Thackston||Jack Harvey||Alexander Rossi (W)||Conor Daly|
|2019||Lindy Thackston||Sage Karam||James Hinchcliffe||Kyle Kaiser|
|2020||(not held)||Sage Karam||J.R. Hildebrand||Ben Hanley|
|2021||(not held)||Sage Karam||Will Power (W)||Simona de Silvestro|
|2022||Lindy Thackston||Christian Lundgaard (R)||Jack Harvey||Stefan Wilson|
|2023||Michael Young||Christian Lundgaard||Sting Ray Robb (R)||Jack Harvey|
x – Denotes that the honoree did not attend the reception.
(R) – Denotes Indy 500 race rookie.
(W) – Denotes Indy 500 former winner.
In the very early years, a kitschy plaque was created to commemorate the event. It featured a piece of an exhaust pipe, jesting that the honorees got in [to the starting field] “by a piece of their tailpipe“. The names of each year’s honorees were affixed to the base for about decade. In some years, the chief mechanic for the 33rd position car was given the amusing “bucket of bolts”.
In many cases, the “Last Row Society” members are obscure drivers, and sometimes are race rookies. However, ten former or eventual Indianapolis 500 winners have participated in the honor at some time during their career. Mario Andretti (1978) was the first former “500” winner to be part of the Last Row Party. Other former or eventual Indy winners include Johnny Rutherford, Gordon Johncock, Tom Sneva, Eddie Cheever, Buddy Lazier, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Takuma Sato, Will Power, and Alexander Rossi.
In 1997, original founders Gerry LaFollette, Art Harris, and David Mannweile, along with many-time emcee Robin Miller, organized the event for the final time. Starting in 1998, the event was moved to the Speedway Motel (“Brickyard Crossing”) and would feature a rotating host. Later it was moved to a suite in the Pagoda, and in recent years, has had a decidedly more family-friendly and less biting nature to the jokes.
In 2013, the three drivers were named, but no reception was held. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no reception was held for 2020 or for 2021.
Front Row Party
In 1985, local restaurateur Chip Laughner decided to organize a reception to honor the three drivers who qualified for the front row of the Indianapolis 500. Laugher, manager of Jonathon’s Restaurant and Pub on the north side of Indianapolis, was interested in doing something for the race, but could not afford to sponsor one of the cars. At the time, there existed the classy “Jim Clark Award” reception, the more relaxed (and often irreverent) “Last Row Party”, as well as the annual Old Timers’ Barbeque. Laugher was surprised to find out that there was no banquet or function for the front row drivers. The only official recognition for the top three qualifiers (besides cash prize bonuses) was the front row photo shoot (usually held the morning after Pole Day). The pole position winner usually enjoyed a considerable amount of attention and media engagement in the days leading up to the race, but the 2nd and 3rd place qualifiers typically received much less accolades.
Laughner arranged for an invitation-only dinner party – dubbed the “Front Row Party” – hosted at Jonathon’s, during the week leading up to the race. The three front row drivers, their families, and their crew members, would enjoy a multi-course dinner, and three drivers were presented with a special gift. Race officials and other dignitaries also were known to attend, while members of the media or broadcasting typically served as emcee and auction hosts. In addition, Laughner started a tradition in which a front row driver of the past would be honored along with the current year’s front row drivers.
The chefs at Jonathon’s were known for preparing lavish meals, along with spectacular Indy 500 themed cakes. The reception was put on hiatus from 1988 to 1991, then returned in 1992. In some years, an auction was held as a fundraiser for a special cause. As a private, invitation-only event, tickets would become highly-sought after, and it became a popular engagement on race week. All three drivers of the front row usually attended, however, in some years, one or two of the honorees was absent due to scheduling conflicts.
In 1995, Jonathan’s was sold and converted to a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. For 1995, the Laughners (with new co-host T.P. Donovan) moved it to the Ritz Charles. In 1996, pole position winner Scott Brayton was tragically killed in a practice crash on Friday May 17. The starting grid was revised, elevating Tony Stewart to the pole, Davy Jones up to second, and Eliseo Salazar moving from 4th to the outside of the front row. The Front Row Party was amended to honor the three updated drivers, but Stewart and his Team Menard crew were unable to attend, due to attending Brayton’s funeral in Michigan.
Starting in 1997, the party was moved to the pavilion at the Brickyard Crossing Inn (formerly the Speedway Motel), which allowed for a much larger audience, albeit less exclusive. The party was quietly retired after 2000.
|Year||Front Row Drivers||Past Honoree||Emcee/Auctioneers|
|Mark Donohue||Paul Page|
|Johnny Rutherford||Jack Arute
|A.J. Foyt||Jack Arute
|Rick Mears||Dave Wilson
|1994||Al Unser Jr.
|Tom Sneva||Jack Arute
|Mario Andretti||Jack Arute
|Al Unser Sr.|
|Rodger Ward||Dave Calabro
|2000||Juan Pablo Montoya
Angelo Angelopolous Award
Presented by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcaster Association Inc. (AARWBA), the Angelo Angelopolous Award is named in honor of former Indianapolis News sports writer Angelo Angelopolous. First recognized in 1963, it is presented to the race participant “who best Exemplifies the Creed of Good Sportsmanship!”.
- 1963 — Allen Crowe
- 1964 — Bob Christie
- 1965 — Jim Hurtubise
- 1966 — Joe Leonard
- 1967 — none
- 1968 — none
- 1969 — Arnie Knepper
- 1970 — none
- 1971 — Gary Bettenhausen
- 1972 — none
- 1973 — Wally Dallenbach
- 1974 — none
- 1975 — none
- 1976 — none
- 1977 — David “Salt” Walther
- 1978 — Mike Hiss
- 1979 — none
- 1980 — Johnnie Parsons
- 1981 — Lindsey Hopkins
- 1982 — none
- 1983 — none
- 1984 — J.C. Agajanian
- 1985 — none
- 1986 — Bob Laycock
- 1987 — Johnny Rutherford
- 1989 — Bill York and Bill Pittman
- 1990 — George Moore
- 1991 — Jim Gilmore
- 1992 — Wayne Fuson
- 1993 — A.J. Foyt
- 1994 — Dick Simon
- 1995 — Jep Cadou
- 1996 — Scott Brayton
- 1997 — Bob Clidinst
- 1998 — Harvey Duck
- 1999 — Arie Luyendyk
- 2000 — Chris Economaki
- 2001 — Norma “Dusty” Brandel
- 2002 — Leon Duray “Jigger” Sirois
- 2003 — Dick Mittman, John Paul Jr., and Bill Marvel
- 2004 — Shav Glick
- 2005 — Robbie Buhl
- 2006 — Kay Totten and Tim Sullivan
- 2007 — Davey Hamilton
- 2008 — Jim Wilson
- 2009 — Al Speyer
- 2010 — John Barnes
- 2011 — Sarah Fisher
- 2012 — Jack Martin
- 2013 — Jan Shaffer
- 2014 — Sam Schmidt
- 2015 — Charles “Chucky” Lynn
- 2016 — James Hinchcliffe
- 2017 — Fred Nation
- 2018 — Michael Knight
- 2019 — Paul Page
- 2020 —
- 2021 — Dan Luginbuhl
- 2022 —
- 2023 —
Louis Meyer Award
Named in honor of Louis Meyer, the first three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 (1928, 1933, 1936). It is “Presented to those individuals who have contributed significantly to the continuing success of the [Indianapolis Motor] Speedway”. It is a prestigious lifetime achievement award presented in conjunction with the Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers club. A plaque is on permanent display at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. In some years, multiple recipients have been named. In those situations, it was sometimes a former driver along with a non-driver (“contributor”).
1991: Mari Hulman George, A.J. Foyt
1992: Duke Nalon, Johnny Rutherford
1993: Roger McCluskey, Tom Carnegie
1994: Rick Mears, Al Unser Sr.
1995: Mario Andretti, A.J. Watson
1996: Emil Andres, Chris Economacki
1997: Herb Porter, Dick Simon
1998: Thomas W. Binford, Arie Luyendyk
1999: Jim Rathmann, George Bignotti
2000: Rodger Ward, Ron Burton (artist)
2001: Parnelli Jones, Jack L. Martin (IMS Museum director 1979-1987)
2002: June K. Swango (secretary of Tony Hulman), Wilson D. “Bill” York (IMS media center manager)
2003: Johnny Boyd, Rolla Vollstedt
2004: Anton “Tony” Hulman George
2005: Roger Penske, Peggy Swalls
2006: Michael Andretti, Dan Luginbuhl
2007: John Barnes, Roger Bailey
2008: Helio Castroneves, Lloyd Ruby
2009: Louis “Sonny” Meyer Jr.
2011: Charles L. Walker Jr.
2018: Bobby Unser
2019: J. Doug Boles, John Andretti
2023: Mike Hull, Sam Schmidt
This award should not be confused with a different “[Winners Drink Milk] Louis Meyer Award” which has been sponsored by the American Dairy Association. That award is a small trophy/plaque usually handed out at the Public Drivers Meeting (or sometime during the month of May) to the previous year’s Indy 500 winner, in recognition of the winner drinking milk in Victory Lane. .
Water From Wilbur
In 1933, and again in 1936, race winner Louis Meyer famously drank a bottle of buttermilk in Victory Lane as a refreshment after a long, hot day. It was the origin of one of the most famous and most popular Indianapolis 500 traditions. Other winners were reported as drinking the milk from 1937 to 1941, and again in 1946. However, the Victory Lane bottle of milk did not become a firm annual tradition until 1956. Between that time, another short-lived custom was part of the victory lane celebration. Beginning in 1947, Speedway president (and three-time Indy 500 winner) Wilbur Shaw presented a silver chalice filled with ice water to the race winner for refreshment. Dubbed Water From Wilbur, it was part of victory lane for eleven years. According to historian Donald Davidson, Shaw was of the opinion that after a grueling 500 miles, winners would prefer water over milk.
Shaw was killed in a plane crash in October 1954. The Speedway continued to present the “Water From Wilbur” goblet in victory lane through 1957. By that time, the bottle of milk had already replaced the water as the more prominent tradition. The silver cup The drivers who were presented with the “Water From Wilbur” are as follows
1947 — Mauri Rose
1948 — Mauri Rose
1949 — Bill Holland
1950 — Johnnie Parsons
1951 — Lee Wallard
1952 — Troy Ruttman
1953 — Bill Vukovich
1954 — Bill Vukovich
1955 — Bob Sweikert
1956 — Pat Flaherty
1957 — Sam Hanks
In 1950, winner Johnnie Parsons reportedly was offered a carton of milk in victory lane by an unknown party, but brushed it off saying “Please, I don’t want that”, as the milk spilled. “Please, water!” he proclaimed and he was handed the goblet from Shaw. In 1955, after Shaw’s death, Tony Hulman presented the water for a few additional years. Pat Flaherty, the winner in 1956, is believed to be the first to partake in both the water and the bottle of milk. The last winner to receive the “Water From Wilbur” goblet was Sam Hanks in 1957.
After several years in storage at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway offices, the “Water From Wilbur” cup was given to Bill Shaw, son of Wilbur Shaw. It appeared in a Wilbur Shaw exhibit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum in the 2000s, then was sold at auction in 2013.
In 1961, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first “500” (1911). Ray Harroun, winner of the 1911 Indianapolis 500 – at 79 years of age, was on-hand for the Golden Anniversary. He participated in pre-race ceremonies, driving his 1911 Marmon “Wasp” around the track for ceremonial laps, and joined Tony Hulman to install a “golden brick” at the start/finish line. Harroun, the winner of the inaugural Indianapolis 500 also became the first “500” winner to live to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his first Indy victory. After receiving relatively little fanfare over the years for winning the first race, Harroun was recognized and celebrated after long last in 1961.
In subsequent years, when a race winner reached the milestone of fifty years since their [first] Indy 500 victory, honors and accolades were planned with the driver often the guest of honor during pre-race ceremonies.
In 1936, the Borg-Warner Trophy was unveiled as the prize for the Indianapolis 500. Winners would be presented the trophy in victory lane. After the race, the winner would take home a replica of the trophy which was embossed silhouette and mounted on an upright wooden plaque. In 1988, Borg-Warner decided to revamp the winner’s prize, and introduced the BorgWarner Championship Driver’s Trophy®, better known as the “Baby Borg”. It is an 14-inch tall free standing trophy made of silver, which is essentially a miniature of the actual Borg-Warner Trophy. Rick Mears (the 1988 winner) was the first driver to be presented with a “Baby Borg”.
When Parnelli Jones (the 1963 winner) reached his 50th anniversary milestone, officials with BorgWarner presented Jones with a Baby Borg. It was the beginning of a new tradition in which living former winners who did not receive the newer Baby Borg (they were presented with the older plaque only), were “upgraded” and would be presented with one on or around the 50th anniversary of their first victory.
The following is a list of Indianapolis 500 winners who lived to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their first victory.
- 1911‒1961: Ray Harroun (attended 1961 race)
- 1913‒1963: Jules Goux
- 1914‒1954: Rene Thomas (attended 1973 race at age 87)
- 1925‒1975: Peter DePaolo (attended the race regularly until his death)
- 1928‒1978: Louis Meyer (attended the race regularly until his death)
- 1960‒2010: Jim Rathmann (attended the race regularly until his death)
- 1961‒2011: A.J. Foyt (presented with Baby Borg in 2022; also won a Baby Borg as an owner in 1999)
- 1963‒2013: Parnelli Jones (presented with Baby Borg in 2013)
- 1969‒2019: Mario Andretti (presented with Baby Borg in 2019)
- 1970-2020: Al Unser Sr. (presented with Baby Borg in 2021)
- 1973‒2023: Gordon Johncock (presented with Baby Borg in 2023)
Johnny Rutherford (1974, 1976, 1980), Rick Mears (1979, 1984, 1988, 1991), Tom Sneva (1983), Danny Sullivan (1985), and Bobby Rahal (1986) are the remaining living former Indy 500 winners who did not receive a “Baby Borg” for the year of the first victory. Mears, however, did receive a Baby Borg for his third (1988) and fourth (1991) victories. Likewise, Rahal has subsequently received two Baby Borgs as a winning owner (2004, 2020).
Additional works cited
- Fox, Jack C., “The Illustrated History of the Indianapolis 500”, Fourth Edition, Carl Hungness Publishing, 1994.
- Popely, Rick, “Indianapolis 500 Chronicle”, Publications International Ltd., 1998.
- The Indianapolis Star via Newspapers.com
- The Indianapolis News via Newspapers.com
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley”, 1070-WFNI-AM: May 11, 2017
- Kevin Triplett’s Racing History – “Water From Wilbur”, March 31, 2016